Food Allergies and Anaphylaxis- No Joke

Many of you know that Severe food allergies and Anaphylaxis are no joke. There are still many people out there that do not realize how serious and life-threatening a food that may seem so innocent, like a peanut can be. We need to raise awareness.

Below is yet another sad story of what happens when us severely allergic people ingest these foods and a reminder of how important it is to take every possible precaution possible. When your life is on the line. Be as safe as you can be.

Amy’s nut allergy devastates family and friends

These stories need to be shared. We need to raise awareness that food allergies are no joke.

 

A whirlwind of a week – cross-contamination and a severe allergic reaction

In the last 6 days I have had one insanely close call with cross-contamination at a restaurant and a severe allergic reaction yesterday afternoon. It’s been quite a week. And my trust in labels and restaurants has dropped drastically.

I am so fortunate to have family and friends who have helped me through both of these incidents. The first incident occurred last Friday, at a family-friendly restaurant here in Victoria when I almost ate a chickpea that was in my Greek salad. I had taken as many precautions as I possibly could have, and the kitchen messed up. Here are the precautions I took:

1) Called the restaurant ahead of time to discuss my severe food allergies – They assured me it should be just fine, we have people in with allergies quite often and accommodate, and that all I would need to do was talk to my waiter. After that response I felt comfortable eating there.

2) Told the waiter the minute he came for our drink order - I told the waiter immediately when he came to the table for our drink order that I had life threatening food allergies and his response was, “ok, I’ll get that later when you order your food”. Not too reassuring, however when he took our food order he did go back to the kitchen with my list and reassured me everything in the Mediterranean salad – with no feta or bread would be ok.

3) Wrote a list of all my food allergies and gave it to the waiter -  I always give a list to my waiter with all my food allergies. I wrote “deadly” next to the 4 things (peanuts, tree nuts, soy, legumes – peas, beans) that could send me to the hospital. And wrote “sensitive to: dairy and gluten” so as not to confuse them.

Now, everyone’s meals arrive together and another waiter or staff (not our waiter) places a salad in front of me with feta cheese on it. I call our waiter back immediately and say “I told you I cannot have feta”. He says “yes, I am sorry the kitchen made a mistake I will get you a new one right away”. I feel comfortable enough that the next time everything will be safe. Well… The next salad came and everything looked ok. No feta on this one. I tested the salad dressing to make sure I didn’t react to it (as soy is often found in dressings) and it was fine. So I started eating. The salad was good and we were having great conversation, when all of a sudden, I realized there was a chickpea in my salad. I was terrified! They called the waiter back immediately and we told him about the chickpea and I told him that I had specifically warned him about my life-threatening allergies and that this chickpea would have sent me to the hospital. The manager spoke to the kitchen staff and sorted it out. They made a brand new salad from scratch and made a new chicken breast for me and didn’t charge us for the meal. The whole car ride home, I worried about a delayed reaction from the fact the chickpea had been in with the salad that I had eaten. I took antihistamines and stayed up for a few hours with my boyfriend in case I would have had a delayed reaction. I didn’t.

I am now scared to trust restaurants with my food. It has traumatized me. How could such a thing happen when you take so many precautions? I don’t plan on eating out for a while.

Have you had any close calls?

 

 

Conferences, events, and hotel food

sorbet

If you are living with life threatening food allergies, you have likely attended a conference or other catered event. Whether the event was a wedding, a holiday party or perhaps a conference, having a safe meal, or multiple safe meals can be challenging. Have you had an exceptional and memorable experience with hotel staff, or catering staff? Have you ever had an experience that may have resulted in a reaction?

I have attended numerous conferences and catered events, for all different occasions and each one has taught me a new tip and raised my awareness a notch.  A few action items I HIGHLY recommend are:

1. Provide a list of ALL your allergies prior to the event (either to event staff, or hotel management)

2. Before the first meal, ask to speak to the “Maitre D” or Kitchen Manager/Head Chef

3. If you genuinely don’t feel comfortable eating from the buffet, then do NOT hesitate to tell them. Tell them you would feel much safer having a separate plate for each meal. They should understand that.

Just because you have food allergies or food sensitivities, like I do, to gluten or dairy, it doesn’t mean you need to miss out on good food and dining! Live the conference, wedding or other event to the fullest while enjoying tasty food just like your friends or colleagues! Speak up! :)

I used to keep quiet and not eat very well. Now, I often eat better than others at the conferences. Some managers have even brought me meals personally! AND placed the napkin on my lap and pushed my chair in! While others were getting their own food from the buffet! Don’t get down because you have food allergies. Don’t let having food allergies be “unfair” they don’t have to be! Trust me on this one!

 

A weekend of safe meals away from home!

Salad Raspberry

This past weekend, I felt extremely safe with all my meals, even though I was far from home! The conference I attended was held at Kingbridge Conference Centre & Institute. The kitchen staff had been provided a list of all my allergies by the conference organizers prior to the conference. Meals were buffet style for starters and breakfasts, and plated for the main meals. At breakfast, lunch and dinner, I would mention to a waitress that I was the one with multiple food allergies. They would nod, tell me to have a seat and shortly after, one of the kitchen managers would bring my plate out to me. The food was great and the staffs attention to my allergies and full understanding and appreciation of the severity of them was one of a kind.

Steak Dinner

Each meal, I felt included. My meals were almost identical to everyone else’s plates! They did a wonderful job at every meal. They even had a sorbet for me and a nice strawberry and mint fruit cup.

I had dessert with every dinner! A real treat :)

DessertSorbet

Thank you Kingbridge Conference Centre & Institute for such wonderful service. The staff were friendly and always smiling! Good safe food, attentive staff, a beautiful venue with squash, tennis and basketball courts, indoor and outdoor pool, an indoor running track and walking trails makes this Centre the perfect getaway!!!

If you are looking for a place to stay somewhere near Toronto I HIGHLY recommend a visit! The staff will take great care of you.

For food allergy and environmental allergy accommodations, I rate them as a 10/10.

 

Would you happen to have any recommendations please?

Hi Erika.

How are you?

From a Google search, I see that you are living in Victoria with food allergies. I started my research into safe places to stay, visit, and dine either in Victoria or Vancouver. My daughter is allergic to peanuts and chickpeas (and possibly other legumes that are yet unconfirmed).

We are planning to finally see some of your beautiful province of BC this summer (either July or August).

Would you happen to have any recommendations please? Any hotels, restaurants, activities that stand out to you as being extremely accommodating to those with life-threatening allergies? We’re actually think we might be safest in a hotel with a kitchenette so we could stock some safe foods; however, it would be nice to have a true vacation and get away from most, if not all, cooking. :)

Any suggestions or leads you could provide would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you in advance, and best wishes! I really like your website.

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Hi,

Ok, here are a few starters for restaurants in Victoria, BC

The Old Spaghetti Factory – Also in Vancouver… I have eaten here numerous times. The kitchen manager and staff in Victoria are well trained with allergies and take special precautions. I believe the only nuts they have are almonds which are in one of their salads and a pesto plate. If you ask to speak to the manager, they will accommodate for you.

Bard & Banker – They are extremely understanding of food allergies and take it seriously. I believe the manager has a child with allergies, and the staff is well aware. Calling ahead is great. If you look at the menu ahead of time and call them to explain the allergies, what your daughter might like to order, they will make a special plate for her.

My blog post: Hands down best attention from restaurant staff yet! Bard & Banker is the place to go with food allergies

Cabin 12 – Does manly breakfasts and lunches and they were “Allergy Aware”

Fifth Street Bar and Grill - I was planning a christmas event here and they seemed understanding of my allergies and willing to work with me. I have not eaten here though. We had our party elsewhere.

Whitespot – Have eaten here on multiple occasions. I always ask for the manager and discuss my allergies and they have a whole allergy binder too! With which foods contain what allergens.

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A really good bakery, that is entirely peanut free (caution, they do use other nuts) is:

Broadmead Bakery & Comments from others

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As for activities, there is the museum and IMAX theatre here in victoria, double decker tour buses, sea kayak excursions or rentals, paddle board rentals, and several nice beaches. There are also a lot of parks to visit, for hikes and a day at the lake.

I can come up with more places to eat and places to stay. I need to call it a night though.

I will come back to you with more tomorrow.

If you would like me to assist you with organizing your trip further than the brief suggestions I will be providing you; speaking to the restaurant staff before you visit and finding fun, safe activities to do, let me know.

Sincerely,
Erika

Cruise ships!

Cruise ships at port

This past weekend, my boyfriend and I went out to the breakwater here in Victoria and watched the cruise ships come in. We watched two cruise ships dock at port, to allow passengers to visit the island for the evening. This is a fairly frequent site here in the summer months. It’s always fun to watch the massive cruise ships dock. It all seems slow motion! Watching these cruise ships reminded me of my experience yrs ago, aboard a cruise to Alaska, on the Zandaam with Holland America, and all I wanted to think about was when I might be able to go on another cruise!

Cruise Ship

Have you ever been on a cruise ship? Perhaps a family cruise to Alaska or warmer yet… the Caribbean? Nowadays there are many cruises, including themed ones, like the Disney Cruise! For families who have a severely food allergic child, a cruise may be a scary thought. An impossible event. To others it may seem manageable if the necessary precautions are taken.

I have been on a cruise. To this very day, it was the most memorable trip of my life! We planned safe snacks to take with us, spoke to the booking agent about the allergies prior to the trip, and had a meeting with the kitchen manager our first day on the ship. Before a single meal had been made. I had a wonderful experience! The manager sat down with me every night at dinner, for a few minutes to plan all my meals for the following day. He advised it best that I only eat at the main restaurant, so he could make me the meals, and our family decided to eat there for most of the meals. There was one lunch where my family wanted to try out a different restaurant on board. I walked to the main dinning room, where my lunch had been prepared for me, asked to speak to the manager, as I did at each meal, and he brought me a plate that I took with me to the other dinning room. Not once did I feel scared. I felt safe.

It is all about being safe. Making sure they can accommodate your allergies. That they understand how severe and life-threatening the allergies are. As I mentioned above, there are many different cruise lines out there nowadays. You need to take precautions. If you don’t feel like they understand, consider looking for another cruise line.

 

 

 

Tea time?

teapot

Sitting here at my computer with a huge cup of tea, I ponder the following… how safe is tea? To some this may sound a little silly however the reality is that nowadays you can find soy on the label of teabags. So what does this mean about other allergens. Well, have you ever been to a loose leaf place? If so, have you ever noticed that there are all kinds of tea, some which include nuts!

I’m a little hesitant to have loose leaf teas, and when at a coffee shop I always opt for the tea bags and read the boxes of the tea before I order anything. Most people are shocked when I turn down having tea, it seems so innocent, however nothing is completely safe.

Do you drink loose leaf teas? If so, what brands do you drink. Does that company make any teas with blends that may have shells from nuts? If they do, do they have procedures in place to lessen the cross-contamination factor? I’m on the lookout for some nut-free loose leaf companies… Any ideas?

My personal motto always has been and remains to be: “you can never be too careful”